Coda: Irving M. Fried

Speaker-industry pioneer Irving M. ("Bud") Fried passed away on March 31 at his home in Philadelphia. A lifelong resident of that city, his first exposure to audio was listening to the sound of Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1928. But it wasn't live. Though he was to become a fixture at Philadelphia Orchestra concerts, he first heard the ensemble's music emerging from the theater horns of his father's movie theaters in 1928. That was not only the year movies learned to talk, but also the year young Fried became a confirmed music lover and audiophile—decades before high fidelity even had a name.

At Harvard University, Fried learned from the genius of Professors Hunt and Pierce, who were conducting research into high-fidelity phono reproduction under a Western Electric grant. During World War II service in the South Pacific, Fried discovered that even 90 miles from Guadalcanal, on the island of Banika, music lovers were listening to Mozart on primitive playback gear in English missionary churches.

When Victor Brociner, co-founder of Fisher Radio, decided to leave the business in 1957, he urged Fried to become the official importer of P.G.A.H. Voight's Lowther corner horns. In 1958, Fried became the importer of what was to become the first, and now iconic, Quad electrostatic speaker.

In 1961, Saul Marantz urged Fried to register the IMF trademark (those letters being his initials). It was ultimately used on cartridges (IMF-London, IMF-Goldring), tone arms (SME, Gould, Audio and Design), amplifiers (Quad, Custom Series), and speakers (Lowther), Quad, Celestion, Bowers and Wilkins, Barker, etc.). In 1968, a new British branch of IMF produced the now classic IMF Monitor. It was one of the first—if not the first—commercial speaker to employ a transmission-line design.

I first met Fried in the late 1970s, just after he severed his relationship with IMF and founded Fried Products, a company that went on to produce and market a wide range of well-regarded speakers. He was an original, and to this then-wet-behind-the-ears audio journalist (producing my own very infrequent, very "underground" audio newsletter, StereOpus), more than a little intimidating. But he was gracious to a fault, and never ceased to evangelize for transmission-line speaker designs and (he argued) their clear superiority over anything else. Like most audio pioneers, he was passionate about acoustic, largely classical music, and rarely played anything else in his rooms at the Consumer Electronics Shows.

Fried and his wife Jane were always on hand to demonstrate his speakers at these shows, and his exhibit was always one of two mandatory stops for this reviewer. The other was the Shahinian room, where Richard Shahinian, a passionate advocate for another form of speaker, the omnidirectional design, could also be counted on the play large-scale, symphonic music.

Shahinian and his company are still with us, though they no longer do CES. Bud Fried stopped coming to CES about 10 years ago. I kept hoping that one day I would see him again at the show. Sadly, that can no longer be. But his legacy and speaker-design philosophy will continue though his last company, Fried Products Corporation. Formed by a group of audiophiles, including Fried, they continue to do CES, and last January, they showed new designs that Fried himself approved.

Bud Fried is survived by his wife Jane and daughter Liz.